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ELECTIONS / GLENDALE CITY COUNCIL AND SCHOOL BOARD : A Changing of the Guard in Local Politics : School board: The election of Jeanne Bentley, Jane Whitaker and Lynda Rocamora makes it an all-female panel for the first time in city history.

April 08, 1993|ROBIN GREENE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Glendale voters are sending three longtime city residents to their school board, making the five-member panel all female for the first time in the city's history.

Jeanne Bentley, a lifelong Glendale resident, was the front-runner in Tuesday's election with 7,690 votes; Jane Whitaker, the only incumbent and a 23-year resident, received 6,319 votes, and Lynda Rocamora, an 18-year resident, won 5,968 votes.

They join current board members Blanche Greenwood and Sharon Beauchamp.

"I'm extremely pleased with the caliber of the board," Rocamora said. "Their gender is secondary."

The election results also mean that for the first time in four years, a board member--Rocamora, a businesswoman--has children attending the Glendale public schools.

Bentley, whose two children graduated from Glendale schools, said having no youngsters in the school system would not affect her handling of the school district's $110-million budget.

"I feel I have a better overview of the students' needs than younger parents," said Bentley, who retired in June from her job as head counselor at Crescenta Valley High School. "I understand the full developmental stage that children go through."

Whitaker, 63, who joined the board 12 years ago when her two children were in Glendale schools, also said her decisions would not be affected because her children had graduated.

"I'm fiscally conservative. That's just my bent," Whitaker said, adding that she was just as conservative about spending money when her children were attending Glendale schools.

Rocamora, 43, who has two daughters in Glendale's public schools, is delighted with her role as the youngest board member.

"I will be bringing a more public, parental view to the board," Rocamora said.

The new board will face several challenges, including shoring up confidence in the public schools and dealing with a diverse student body, a shortage of teachers and counselors and budget problems.

The addition of two new members is not expected to change the immediate direction of the board, observers said. A proposed extension of the nearly 3,000-student Glendale High School tops the board's agenda, and Rocamora and Bentley have expressed support for the construction project.

Board member Beauchamp said that the only other issue likely to cause controversy, the budget, has been settled for the current school year.

"The budget doesn't call for any cuts, and we have a contract with the teachers union," Beauchamp said. "So we're pretty stable for this year."

In a crowded field of nine candidates, one strong theme emerged: the need to draw the community, especially businesses, into a partnership with the schools to solve some of those problems. The two newcomers, Bentley and Rocamora, promised to make community activism a top priority.

"We need to get on top of the challenges and get common agencies and resources together," Bentley said.

Rocamora said she would "work hard to link the community to the school" even if it meant "taking people by the hand and showing them what can be done."

That theme was echoed by candidates Deborah Dentler, who came in seventh with 4,414 votes, and Brenda Hamer, the city's first black school board candidate, who was eighth with 2,652 votes.

John A. (Al) Forthmann IV placed fourth with 5,425 votes; Louise Foote was fifth with 4,098 votes; Carol Melton was sixth with 3,436 votes, and Sid Jurman received 2,444 votes.

The three board members elected Tuesday will be sworn in Monday and will attend their first public meeting April 20. Bentley and Rocamora will fill seats left vacant by the retirements of June Sweetnam and Charles Whitesell.

Board members are responsible for 28,200 students attending four high schools, four middle schools and 19 elementary schools.

Turnout in this year's election was up slightly compared to 1990, city clerk Aileen Boyle said. Of approximately 79,500 registered voters, about 16,800 cast ballots, or 21.3% of eligible voters. In 1990, about 20% of those eligible voted. Boyle said about 4,000 absentee ballots were cast, which Whitaker claimed was a factor in her reelection.

"The race was determined by the absentee ballots," Whitaker said. "The voter turnout was light but it was heavy on absentee ballots."

Bentley said her long ties to Glendale, where she spent 23 years as a teacher and a counselor, helped her win.

"I had real strong support from my Glendale friends," she said. "And I had the support of a large group of parents from the PTA."

Rocamora said her activism in the schools for the past six years was instrumental in her election. And she said the support of friends helped her, including an early supporter who died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm before the race got under way.

"I really want to dedicate my win to her," Rocamora said of Margie Mayer, who was 50 at the time and has a 13-year-old son in the Glendale schools. "She was an extraordinary person."

GLENDALE ELECTION RETURNS

Board of Education

(Three seats open)

65 of 65 Precincts Reporting

CANDIDATE VOTE % Jeanne Bentley 7,690 18.1 Jane M. Whitaker* 6,319 14.9 Lynda Rocamora 5,968 14.0 John A. Forthmann IV 5,425 12.7 Deborah Dentler 4,414 10.4 Louise Foote 4,098 9.6 Carol S. Melton 3,436 8.1 Brenda J. Hamer 2,652 6.2 Sid Jurman 2,444 5.7

* Denotes incumbent.

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